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Houston’s Newest Hidden Speak-Easy Off the Record Puts Fresh Spin on Vinyl Music, Cocktails

When Off the Record joins the hubbub of nightlife along Main Street in downtown Houston Nov. 2, it will check off a number of trends: It’s a speak-easy designed to be discreet. There will be vinyl, which continues to surge in popularity. Music enthusiasts will also find the listening lounge vibes enticing.

Houston’s latest bar — located in the former Bovine & Barley space, 416 Main — comes from a team of nightlife veterans. From the bar side, there’s Jason Lowery (a partner at Bovine & Barley but also Proof and Tikila’s) and Steve Rogers (Bar 5015, The Warwick, Prospect Park). They’re joined by David Anderson III of the Heist Agency, an arts and entertainment talent management group, and Mikos Adams, a social media marketing pro.

“We wanted to bring a spot to Houston with culture, good music — a place that makes you want to pull out your Shazam and figure out what song is playing,” said Lowery in a statement. “If you’re barhopping, hopefully you’re not going to hear the same thing here as anywhere else.”

The entrance to Off the Record includes a large, squarish billboard-looking display featuring the spine of various record jackets lined up like a bookshelf. It’s also next to a forthcoming Moxy Hotel, a Marriott brand focused on hip design with more affordable pricing.

The entry is designed like a small record shop. While there are currently no vinyls for sale, there will be a display case for merchandise and memorabilia, according to an Off the Record spokesperson.  

Toward the back is an “Employees Only” sign before customers pass through a velvet curtain to enter Off the Record.

Inside the dimly lit 3,600-square-foot bar, which the partners designed themselves, are five emerald green booths and five royal blue couches, which can be reserved for groups. A 41-foot wraparound bar is framed by 30 gold records from bestselling albums from the likes of Nirvana, Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd.

Off the Record also draws inspiration from George Daniels, Anderson’s uncle, a Houstonian who grew up in the Fifth Ward and later opened Chicago’s iconic George’s Music Room in 1969. It was a large independent record store and helped launch the careers of many artists. There are photos on the walls of Daniels with artists including Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Lenny Kravitz, Usher and Santana.

“We want to pay tribute to that by bringing that touch of history to this exciting new concept in downtown Houston,” Anderson said.

Speak-easy-style bars are not new to Houston. In the past year, places like Meo in the Heights and the recent sushi restaurant Norigami featuring “hidden” bar spaces have debuted.

But Off the Record taps into an emerging trend of listening bars, which are establishments that place a premium on quality sound systems and curated playlists. Such hi-fi bars, which draws on a history of postwar Japanese cities showcasing vinyl, have been popping up in large cities across the U.S., from Brooklyn to L.A.

The new wave of listening bars also emphasize cocktail offerings. Here, general manager Jorge Parris, who comes from Moon Rabbit, developed the cocktails.

A number of cocktails play on musical themes, from the Rolling Stone (strawberry-and-lemongrass flavored vodka with elderflower liqueur, lemon and mint) to an espresso martini riff with the Brown Sugar Brew (cold brew mixed with vodka, coffee liqueur, turbinado, cacao, saline and chocolate cotton candy).

There will be themed nights as well, such as Motown Mondays and ’90s on Wax Thursdays. A roster of DJs including Beat Sicarios, Gracie Chavez and Good Grief are expected to spin at Off the Record. It will be open Monday through Sunday from 5 p.m. until late.

Source : Houston Chrocnile